Okay, first things first: the elements of the argument.
- Questions the scholarship of the person receiving the Reply due to their (seeming) lack of familiarity with specific authors.
- Mentions the prevalence and mainstream acceptance of the thing that the person being Replied to himself argued against.
- Suggests that there is something bad about the person being spoken of entirely due to the latter two qualities.
- Avoids addressing "the substance" of arguments (in the case of the example above, by the very admission of the Replier), and instead focused on lack of [insert positive trait not actually associated with the truth of the argument here].
- Asserts or implies that high credentials are needed in order to make judgments about a certain subject. Presumably, this is only noteworthy if it is 1. a subject matter on which almost all people are deemed capable of making informed judgments regardless of credentials and 2. the information that they are suggesting that you acquire in the process of gaining these credentials are irrelevant to the larger issue (i.e. learning about how something works in principle when the question at hand is whether it works at all in reality).
A step by step:
- Questioning scholarship is fine when you can show where, specifically, their work fell short. But, the insistence that one should be familiar with the specific writings of an individual in order to even make an argument, save in situations where you are specifically commenting on those writings in particular, seems to be inching into appeal to authority territory. Which serves as a nice transition to the other aspects of the argument, incidentally.
- The discussion of the popular acceptance of a certain idea or ideology as indicative of the accuracy of that idea or ideology is an argumentum ad populum.
- The implication that, in the written scenario, Dawkins is bad in some way due to being uninformed by authoritative sources and due to disputing a mainstream view, is the first part of the ad hominem, in addition to the larger overriding theme of presumed ignorance, obstensibly proven in the previous two parts. It is an attempt to show the author as untrustworthy or unreliable. Which, wouldn't be a problem (assuming that they pulled it off using logical arguments). Unfortunately....
- ....the ad hominem argument is completed in its full fallacious glory when the substance of the argument is intentionally ignored in lieu of simply insinuating that their arguments must be wrong due to the previously established negative traits.
- The final and most distinctive part of the Reply is the declaration that one needs to meet certain academic qualifications in order to successfully make statements on a subject. This is an interesting case of an argument from authority. Normally, an argument from authority is that a person is correct because they are authoritative. In this case, however, it is implied that you cannot even be correct unless you are authoritative. This statement seems to get credence from the fact that in discussions relevant to science, people are regularly told that they need to have X level of a qualification in order to make a certain statement for certain. In this case, qualification means that you are more likely to be correct about a relevant subject matter, but is not a guarantee, just as lack of qualification is not a guarantee of ignorance, nor ignorance a guarantee of being incorrect (lucky guesses, ya know?). And, in order to have the ability to make an argument that will have relevance to the scientific community, you need to have sufficient credentials in order to yourself have relevance within the scientific community. These things should not have any bearing on actual arguments outside of that setting, however, and suggesting that someone is wrong due to lack of "authority" rather than due to actually having said something that is incorrect is fallacious still.
fields of study when it comes to these sorts of "Replies", due to the irrelevance of the bulk of theology to those who do not first accept the premise that God exists (among many others), which requires much more discussion to effectively establish without approaching that debate in the same manner that presuppositionalist apologetics approach the question of God's existence. The Replies themselves are what need to be addressed, because they are a verbiose form of a particularly interesting form of ad hominem that takes the form of "you don't understand".
Now, stating that someone else does not understand is fine, if you can show what they failed to understand before or after making such a statement. But, stating that as the entirety of a supposed rebuttal is not only an unhelpful insult, rather than an argument of any form, but it is also impossible to argue against, cleverly enough. Without pointing out the specific areas in which a person's understanding has failed, there is nothing for the person who "doesn't understand" to rebut and no means to correct their supposed errors (or indicate that they in fact do understand, and either the other person is mistaken, or the original did not express themselves effectively). Without anything more to actually address the argument it supposedly rebuts, it ends a discussion, because the person who accepts that they "do not understand" without specific errors pointed out cannot reasonably continue a discussion on the subject matter without those unknown errors being specified (since he must essentially accept that he is in error about everything mentioned thus far). Luckily, the Courtier's Reply does add more onto this basic argument, but only in the form of suggesting that one corrects their lack of understanding through years of education in a broad field and reading of specific texts, ending the discussion in a similar manner by leaving the person who accepts this declaration that they are ignorant on the subject only able to rectify the situation through days of reading and/or years of study. It is not only an insult used in place of an actual substantial argument, but it is also a tacit attempt to brush off the person that the Reply is for.
In short, in its purest form, the Courtier's Reply is a fallacious argument in many ways and an almost calculated attempt to stop any dialogue at all. It is something to avoid at all costs.